Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Wait . . . Marvel Fans Don't Love The Marvel Vibranium Card Set?!

The Good: Excellent artwork, Good writing, Decent quality/look, Cool bonus cards, Nice balance between source material and fodder for card collectors
The Bad: Terrible sketch cards, Strangely low collectible value
The Basics: The Marvel Vibranium trading card set from Upper Deck is a neat set that might be near-impossible to collect, but it is surprisingly cool for the majority of the set.

Every now and then, I run into a set of trading cards that I consider collecting, is of interest to me and I look into for the purposes of review and find myself fairly baffled by it. The Marvel Vibranium set from Upper Deck is one such set. The Marvel Vibranium set is surprisingly cool and what left me surprised about the set was that for some reason, it did not resonate with collectors. For sure, the set has problems - all of the sketch cards I could find were pretty much garbage (even though they fit the concept of the set surprisingly well!) and the collectibility is in the set is in the "damn near impossible" range. But, Upper Deck (to the best of my knowledge) did not pioneer the unrealistic collectibility level that made it so only four people could create a true master set of cards for a set.

The Marvel Vibranium trading cards is a mostly solid set that provides a surprisingly similar format to Marvel trading card collectors following Rittenhouse Archives giving up the license to Marvel Comics cards. As such, the foil-based Marvel Vibranium set is chock full of parallel cards and rich with creative chase cards like patch and sketch cards. Unlike most trading card sets, the Marvel Vibranium set actually goes out of its way to pay homage to the creators of the comic book source material by including autographed trading cards of the artists for key issues of various Marvel Comics!

Basics/Set Composition

The Marvel Vibranium trading card set was a fairly inventive set of cards, though it bore a lot of similarities in structure to the Rittenhouse Archives 2014 Marvel Universe trading cards (reviewed here!), though the differences in the parallel cards were a bit more dramatic and the volume of basic bonus cards was a bit more hefty. Properly assembled, the set is a collection of 1014 trading cards from Upper Deck. All of the cards are available in boxes or cases of Marvel Vibranium cards, which is a nice touch! The cards were originally released in boxes that contained twenty packs of five cards each. Boxes tended to run in the $75 - $90 range and generally had only one major "hit" card per box.

Collation in the Marvel Vibranium set was all right, but given how massive the set is, it took multiple cases to complete even the most basic set and the idea of having to buy 257 cases in order to make a true master set would be absolutely ludicrous to all but the most die-hard fans. The Marvel Vibranium set is pretty massive and it is a decent representation of where Marvel Comics went in 2015 with the massive Axis crossover and does a decent job of integrating various Marvel Comics universes into a single set.

Common Cards

The common card set consists of 90 trading cards, which are printed on beautiful foil cardstock and have a glossy UV resistant coating. The Marvel Vibranium cards do not seem to warp or curl the way most foil cards do, which gives one the impression that these will be more durable for collectors in perpetuity. The Marvel Vibranium set features cards that are character-centered and feature writing based mostly on the Axis storyline from Marvel Comics.

The common cards look wonderful, featuring as they do a solid character image on a silver background that represents Vibranium. The cards are universally in portrait format, though most of the cards feature knee and above artwork of the character they depict.

The backs of the Marvel Vibranium cards are well written, detailing character depicted's role in the major crossover event. The cards are revelatory for the plot of the event, but most fans who are likely to be entranced by the Marvel Vibranium cards will already know the salient details of the crossover event.

Collation on this set was fair, but it generally took more than one box to complete a complete ninety-card set.

Chase Cards

There are 924 chase cards in the Marvel Vibranium set, with all of them found in the boxes and packs of cards. The bonus cards that can be found within the boxes were the Raw, Molten, Refined, Radiance and Bar parallel cards, Rookie Pow-Ore cards, Rookie Heroes, Universal Heroes, When Worlds Collide, In Memoriam, Patch and Double patch cards, Dual comic autograph cards and their variants and Metal Engraving sketch cards. Most of the chase cards are limited to only one of the style per box and some of the parallels were found only one per case, which enhances the value of the boxes and cases and makes it very tough to complete a whole set. The final level of chase "card" are the printing plates and the 257 printing plates would require a collector to purchase as many cases with absolutely ideal collation in order to complete a true master set!

The most basic bonus card in the set are the 90 raw parallel cards. The parallel cards are a strange standard in recent releases from Upper Deck and other card companies. The raw parallel cards are somewhat cool; the straight silver background of the common cards is replaced with a cracked, sparkle background that looks like semi-crystalline rock! The Raw Parallels are found about six per box, so collectors would take at least two cases to complete a single set of these cards!

The parallel cards did not stop there, though, with the Marvel Vibranium set. Three per box there is a Molten parallel card (individually numbered to 299), one per box were the Refined parallel cards (individually numbered to 99), one in every other box was a Radiance parallel (limited to 50 of each card) and one per case there was a Bar parallel card (individually numbered to 5). The Molten parallel cards are arguably the most distinctive of the parallel cards as they feature a distinctive red background. Refined Parallel cards replace the smooth, clean foil background with a a silver and black crystalline fractal background, while the Radiance background is a blockish background pattern. The Bar Parallels have a fine metallic checkerboard pattern to them and they are printed on a dramatically thicker cardstock. My experiences with the Marvel Vibranium cards led to a disturbing disappointment with the Bar Parallels; at only one per case, there is the risk one will pull a lame character's card, but even the awesome characters come with some liabilities. The Bar card we pulled was 1/5, which should have been incredible (especially considering it featured an awesome character!), but the back of the card featured a noticeable flaw in the card's UV coating, which prevents the ultra rare card from being considered truly mint!

Usually in these reviews, I spend a lot of time and space evaluating the individual chase sets, but with the Marvel Vibranium cards that is somewhat pointless. The five major chase cards: Rookie Heroes, In Memoriam, Universal Heroes, When Worlds Collide, and Heroes Pow-ore cards are remarkably similar, down to the fact that all but the Universal Heroes cards are in portrait orientation. The Universal Heroes cards are the only cards in the basic bonus set that are in landscape orientation, which is weird, but makes sense that each of the cards in that chase set feature three different versions of the character on the front of the card. All five of the chase sets are simple foil cards, that feature large images of characters (and with When Worlds Collide, scenes) and the backs with fairly basic text on the characters and scenes. The bonus cards have minimal differentiation, down to the fact that their rarities are so similar that none of the five subsets can be completed with an entire CASE of cards! The Rookies are, obviously, new characters in the Axis and Secret Wars crossovers, while the In Memoriam cards are tributes to the characters (or versions of characters) who were killed off in 2015. Heroes Pow-ore cards are like game cards with stats for major super heroes, detailing power ratings for the characters as if they were playable characters in a game. All of the basic chase cards - 20 Heroes Pow-ore, 20 In Memoriam, 10 Rookie Heroes, 20 Universal Heroes, and 20 When Worlds Collide cards - are fairly rare, foil, and brightly colored, which maintains the format of the common sets. They look decent and fit the set very well.

One of the best-executed concepts in the Marvel Vibranium card set are the Patch cards. Landscape oriented and triple-thick, the patch cards are like costume cards in other sets. Unlike costume cards, the twenty-five patch and twenty-five double patch cards feature cutaway windows that reveal 1" square puffy patches of the character heads of the characters depicted on the patch cards. Well-colored and matching the foil cards surprisingly well, the patch cards are cool ways to immortalize beloved characters like Iron Man, Ghost Rider and cool pairs of characters like Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen! Whether or not the patch cards are resonating with the fans, they are one of the best-executed, coolest, chase cards that Upper Deck produced for the Marvel Vibranium set!

What does not appear to have resonated with fans, absolutely inexplicably, are the dual autograph cards. Upper Deck created twenty-two dual autograph cards of popular covers giving the artists (usually penciller and inker) the chance to sign each foil card. Upper Deck also made ten variant dual-autograph cards featuring some of the coolest variant covers from the crossover events and got them signed (as near as I can tell, always in blue). The autograph cards are an awesome tribute to the artists who create the comic books that are the source material for the set and that is inherently cool . . . but, for some reason, collectors do not seem willing to shell out for the dual autograph cards at the prices that similar one-per-case trading cards! Despite that, all of the autographs I have found have been crisp, clear and awesome looking for the dual autograph and variant dual autograph cards.

At the other end of the rating spectrum are the Metal Engraving Sketch Cards. The Marvel Vibranium cards, like so many trading card sets these days, feature sketch cards, in this case on a semi-foil card. The 45 artists who produced cards for the Marvel Vibranium set seemed almost universally unable to make great art on these cards. While Sharon Gauthier seemed to produce some cool cards, she was the exception to the rule. When truly amazing artists who have produced incredible works for other sets, like Melike Acar, Mitch Ballard and Jeffrey Benitz were unable to produce sketches of similar quality levels to their works on other sets suggests that the medium was not an ideal one. As such, the Bar parallels and some of the printing plates easily eclipse the value of the sketch cards.

As with many sets of cards, Upper Deck released the printing plates - magenta, cyan, yellow and black - as trading cards. All 90 common cards, the dual autograph and variant dual autograph cards, and all five chase cards have printing plate cards included in the set, for 257 printing plates limited to four of each. As such, there can only truly be four complete sets of Marvel Vibranium trading cards.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

Unlike most "modern" trading card releases, there are no cards for the Marvel Vibranium trading card set that are not found in boxes of the cards!


The Marvel Vibranium trading card set is objectively cool, despite the sheer rarity of some of the parallels and the low quality of the sketch cards, which makes it surprising to me that they have not resonated with collectors in a way that they has maintained their value in the marketplace.

This is a set of trading cards I proudly sell in my online store! Please feel free to shop by checking out my current Marvel Vibranium Trading Cards Inventory!

For reviews of other Marvel trading cards, please check out my reviews of:
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 trading cards
Marvel 75th Anniversary trading cards
Dangerous Divas Series 2 trading cards


For other trading card reviews, be sure to check out my Trading Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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